In a room at a Rochester, Minn., hotel used almost exclusively by Mayo Clinic patients and relatives, Peter Smith, 81, left a file of documents, including a statement police called a suicide note in which he said he was in ill health and a life insurance policy was expiring, the Tribune reported.
According to the Journal, Smith began the effort on Labor Day weekend in 2016 by assembling a team to acquire emails the team theorized might have been stolen from the private server Clinton had used while secretary of state.
Smith’s focus was the more than 30,000 emails Clinton said she deleted because they related to personal matters. Smith told the Journal he believed the missing emails might have been obtained by Russian hackers. He also told the Journal he thought the correspondence related to Clinton’s official duties.
He told the Journal he worked independently and was not part of the Trump campaign, and he and his team found five groups of hackers — two of them Russian groups — who claimed to have Clinton’s missing emails.
Smith had a history of doing opposition research, and for years, President Bill Clinton was his target, the Tribune reported.
According to the Journal, Smith implied he was working with Flynn, who was a senior adviser to then-candidate Trump.
“He said, ‘I’m talking to Michael Flynn about this — if you find anything, can you let me know?'” Eric York, a computer-security expert from Atlanta who searched hacker forums on Smith’s behalf for people who might have access to the emails, told the Journal.
The Journal report does not conclude whether Flynn was involved in the attempts to obtain Clinton’s stolen emails.
According to the Tribune, Smith wrote two blog posts dated the day before he was found dead. One challenged U.S. intelligence agency findings Russia interfered with the 2016 election.
Another predicted: “As attention turns to international affairs, as it will shortly, the Russian interference story will die of its own weight.”
Investigations into any possible links between the Russian government and people associated with Trump’s presidential campaign now are underway in Congress and by former FBI chief Robert Mueller.